Admitting learners beyond the school’s capacity amounts to an act of irresponsibility. This is what Paul Colditz, the chief executive officer of the Federation of Governing Bodies of Southern African Schools (Fedsas), said in an interview with Inside Education on Wednesday.
Colditz said while it was understandable that no learners be denied an opportunity to learn, the well-being and safety of learners should always come first. He said the current crisis of school shortages in Gauteng should be blamed on the province’s education department.
On Sunday, Gauteng MEC of education Panyaza Lesufi, said his department is working around the clock to accommodate over 31,000 grade 8 and grade 1 learners in schools across the province.
To add to the woes, several schools were damaged during recent storms. Lesufi admitted some of them would certainly not be ready when schools re-open this week.
“If you analyse the learner enrolment figures of schools in Gauteng and compared them with other schools elsewhere in the country, you will realise Gauteng schools enrol twice the number of other schools outside the province,” said Colditz.
He said on average most schools in Gauteng enrolled about 1000 learners, while the norm in other provinces was almost half the number.
“That in itself tells you there are not enough schools in the province,” he said.
Colditz said the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has a backlog of 200 schools that need to be built to deal with the increasing demand every year. He said every year the national Department of Basic Education publishes a document which provides all the relevant information for the various departments to use and plan properly.
Colditz expressed his support to the management of a Vereeniging based Hoërskool Overvaal after MEC Lesufi headed to Pretoria High Court to challenge their refusal to admit 55 learners. The management said the school reached its full capacity and was not able to accommodate any more learners. But Lesufi said the reason for refusing to admit the learners was based on the Afrikaans language. The case has since been postponed.
Colditz said the department’s failure to build more schools forced school managers to admit learners even when they did not have the capacity.
“School managers can’t act irresponsibly by pushing up the numbers all the time. This will endanger the health and safety of the learners”, said Colditz.
He said what made the situation even more untenable was that the department instructed schools without any proper investigation or communication.